WENATCHEE — Parade-route chairs are causing city officials grief a little earlier than usual this year.
No, they haven’t already started springing up along Orondo Avenue more than two months before the Washington State Apple Blossom Festival.
Instead, city leaders have been struggling with how to regulate the tangle of chairs and other place-holders that start lining the parade route weeks ahead of time, in some cases creating a public nuisance and hazard.
The City Council gave their support last fall to a proposal that would limit the placement of parade chairs — and only chairs — to just nine days of the festival. They directed city staff to write up a new ordinance for their approval.
But the ordinance, which would become part of city law, was becoming too cumbersome, City Attorney Steve Smith told the council on Thursday.
The lengthy draft document took a whole page to define terms like “parade route” and “sidewalk furniture” and another half a page to describe the kinds of things that would not be allowed along the route, such as seats with rust, mildew and rotting materials. It required people to label their chairs with contact information, and required the city to contact the owners before removing delinquent chairs and to keep a written record of all attempts to contact the owners.
Smith said the ordinance also raised questions about whether the city would become liable for any damage or injuries if it permitted the chairs by law during the festival — and if it could be held legally liable for destroying problem chairs without notifying the owners.
“The ordinance is pretty complex,” said City Councilman Bryan Campbell. “We’re trying to solve a problem and it looks like we created one instead.”
As an alternative, city staff have now recommended regulating chairs by resolution rather than a more formal ordinance. While an ordinance is a permanent rule change, a resolution generally deals with special or temporary matters.
The resolution would essentially tolerate the chairs during the festival, but would not permit them by law. The resolution would also allow the city to remove problem chairs without notice and give owners 30 days to claim them before they are destroyed.
Under the resolution, chairs could be placed along the parade route starting the Thursday before the youth parade and must be removed after the grand parade.
Smith said he researched other city’s laws regarding parade chairs and found none other in the state that permit chairs earlier than the day of a parade.
“So we’re being lenient,” he joked. “Personally, I would prefer there not be any furniture out there at all,” Smith said. “They should bring it with them on parade day and then take it away.”
But, he added he understands that early chair placement has been a long-standing tradition in the city.
Police Chief Tom Robbins said his office regularly gets complaints on parade days from people who placed chairs and other place-holders along the route — sometimes as early as March — and arrived to find someone else sitting in their seat. He said his officers have not and will not respond to those complaints, even with a new resolution.
Council members favored the resolution approach and are expected to approve it at their meeting next week. However, Councilman Mark Kulaas pointed out more than once during Thursday’s meeting that the new chair policy is coming at the request of Apple Blossom Festival officials and was not initiated by the city.
“This, to me, seems like a reasonable first step,” Mayor Frank Kuntz said.
Michelle McNiel: 664-7152